A Cossak Encounter in Murmansk

A Cossak Encounter in Murmansk

For my first blogpost, I chose to write about a picture I found in the Library of Congress, shot by Sergei Mikahailovich.


The picture, named “Gruppa”, which means group, was shot in Murmansk in the year of 1915. Murmansk is a port city in the northwest of Russia, and named after the Murman coast, a term in Russian for Norway. The photographer is seated beside two military men dressed in Cossak robes.

Location of Murmansk

I think that this picture in particular is so interesting at the time because Russia is about to experience revolts, especially from soldiers, who will later be the first Soviets. In 1915, Russia is currently finding itself in World War I. Russia is losing its quest to dominate the Ottoman Empire, and the Black Sea. Meanwhile, Germany is growing in military and might. Because Russia’s ammunition and weapons are low, they are defeated several times by Germany. On top of that, soldiers have poor food provisions. I wonder whether these men were suffering of poor provisions, as well.

This picture is taken shortly before the end of Tsar Nicholas II’ reign, and the February revolution. The Russian Empire will collapse, and nobles will not be able to hinder it. Did these military men already have any idea of what was going to happen, and if so, did they tell the photographer about it? Were they part of any socialist uprisings? Military men were very crucial in the upcoming revolts, so I guess they must have had some kind of idea of what was going on.

I can also see that the photographer and his two companions are sitting in what seems to be like a construction area in the forest. Perhaps they are seated on another railroad construction, something that was being worked on at that time, as well. Russia was very much in need of industrialization, having to catch up with Western European states.

Sergei Mikahailovich has a bunch of other pictures that are located in the Library of Congress. If I were you, I would go check them out! If you look closely, each picture has its own little neat story behind it. The link for “Gruppa” is found underneath the picture I posted, and you can easily explore Sergei’s collection if you click on the link.

I hope you enjoyed my first blogpost! Stay tuned for more!

P.S.: For my research I used the book “Russia: A History,” edited by Gregory Freeze. I mostly looked up the chapter on World War I.

10 thoughts on “A Cossak Encounter in Murmansk

  1. Hi Lara! This is a really fascinating picture that you chose, and I think you asked some really great questions about it! I really like that you connected your picture to bigger events that were taking place in Russia – this is a really good way to start an analysis. How do you think the location in which these soldiers were located might have affected their experience in the war? Why might military men have been willing to participate in the upcoming uprisings?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. What an intriguing photograph! The geographic and cultural expanse represented here is really impressive. They photograph is taken in the far north (Murmansk) when the World War that will topple the empire is already underway. Yet Prokudin-Gorskii is accompanied by two gendarmes from the North Caucasus — a thousand miles away (and at the very bottom of your image). Wow. I kind of doubt this group was hurting for provisions (P-K had great connections, afte all), but I think you’re right to gesture toward what an issue this would become as the war dragged on and tensions increased.
    Thank you for citing your sources as well!


  3. Hello Lara! I especially appreciated your post as you pointed specific things out and then explained them. I have read a lot about the significance of workers during this period but it is refreshing to read about what it was like for men in the military. I am assuming they to were once of the working class before taking up arms. I think soldiers to would have an interesting perspective in the face of what was going on in this period. What do you think?

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I like how you question what role these particular soldiers might play in the revolution. I think doing so helps them seem more concrete, even though the photograph was taken over 100 years ago. I also like how you direct people to where they can find other images captured by Sergei Mikhailovich, in case they want to see more.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. The picture’s interesting because I read from another post that the cossaks were from a region closer to the black see, so they are indeed quite a whiles away from home in this photo. You bring up a lot of good questions which I like and find myself also wondering. I would like to know from a cossak perspective thoughts on the international power balance on the eve of the first world war.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Lara, I found your post very informative on the ideas of the mindset of Russians on the eve of Revolution. Everything you mentioned is extremely relevant, from the need for railroads, the military dissent, and the Empire’s involvement and losses during WWI. I thought your questions were relevant too. I was asking myself similar questions about these men, wondering where they ended up during the Revolution. Keep up the insightful remarks, everyone gets wrapped up in big ideas concerning the Russian Revolution but few people focus on the people who lived during, chose sides, and witnessed the Revolution.


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